New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books reviews: Gay City News and Philadelphia Gay News
January 02, 2008
New Hampshire Gay Couples Civil Unionized
by Staff of gfn.com
At the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, New Hampshire became the fourth state to allow civil unions of same-sex couples. It is the first state to take that step voluntarily and without the pressure of a lawsuit. What was expected to be a ceremony for about 20 couples and their friends became a mass gathering of nearly 200 people, reported the Concord Monitor. So many couples arrived at the last minute, without preregistering, organizers had to hold the civil unions in two batches.
"To me, this has been a lifetime of waiting," said Rita Lamy, who came with her partner Linda Archer to make their three-year relationship legal. Once couples had cleared the State House archway, they made their ways to one of several clergy members or justices of the peace on hand. Many of those who gathered at the church called civil unions an intermediate step toward same-sex marriage. Political leaders cautioned them that they still have to work to preserve the new law, because it is likely to become a divisive issue in future elections.
But it wasn’t all celebration outside the State House.
The event drew a lone protester, Michael Hein of the Christian Civil League of Maine, who quietly handed out a statement calling all sex outside of heterosexual marriage a sin but did not disrupt the event. Rep. Gail Morrison, a Democrat from Sanbornton who celebrated her own civil union, reminded the crowd that civil unions stop short of full marriage. The new legal unions do not carry all the same rights as marriage, and there are tax consequences for couples in civil unions.
Rep. Jim Splaine, a Portsmouth Democrat who co-sponsored the law, said he hopes the media coverage will reassure couples who don’t yet have the courage to go public. "When they see the pictures of good same-gendered couples coming together to share their life and love, they are going to realize it’s okay to be gay and they are going to realize that the state says it’s okay to be gay."
January 7, 2008
CONTACT: National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
Task Force Action Fund Hails Passage of NJ Bill Making Anti-Bullying and Hate Crimes Laws Two of The Strongest in The Nation
New Jersey Makes Transgender-Inclusion Unequivocal In Its Hate Crimes and Safe Schools Laws
Washington, DC – January 7 – By a 65-10 vote, the New Jersey Assembly today approved legislation making the state’s anti-bullying and hate crimes laws two of the strongest in the country by making transgender-inclusion unequivocal and significantly bolstering the two laws’ enforcement mechanisms. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund partnered with Garden State Equality and the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey to provide drafting and strategy support for the measure. The legislation passed the state Senate last Thursday by a 35-0 vote. Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration testified in support of the legislation and the governor is expected to sign it into law.
Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
“On the heels of a year that closed with Congress stripping transgender people out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and pulling LGBT hate crimes protections from the Department of Defense authorization bill, this is an important and much-needed victory. New Jersey has long been a national leader on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, but today rises to the top with two of the strongest hate crimes and safe schools laws in the country and unequivocal protections for transgender people.
“We applaud Garden State Equality, the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Anti-Defamation League, the New Jersey Educational Association and state lawmakers who forged ahead to launch 2008 with such a positive and fair-minded act. We look forward to Gov. Corzine’s signature on this important legislation.”
New Jersey will become the 12th state with a transgender-inclusive hate crimes law when this measure is signed into law. The measure also improves existing hate crimes provisions by mandating two hours of training on hate crimes for all new police officers and offering non-sentence penalty options to judges, such as anti-hate sensitivity training for convicted defendants. Additionally, although New Jersey already is among five other states and the District of Columbia that have transgender-inclusive safe schools laws, today’s legislation makes New Jersey’s safe-schools law among the strongest in the nation. It expands existing law to require schools to post and distribute their anti-bullying policies and by creating a Commission on Bullying in Schools to investigate bullying and make recommendations to the governor and legislature for future legislation. In 2006, New Jersey included express protections based on gender identity/expression in its nondiscrimination laws.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, founded in 1974 as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., works to build the grassroots political power of the LGBT community to win complete equality. We do this through direct and grassroots lobbying to defeat anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBT legislation and other measures. We also analyze and report on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBT community. The Task Force Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation incorporated in New York. Contributions to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are not tax deductible.
17th January 2008
US gets first black lesbian mayor
by Tony Grew
The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has made history after the city council chose Denise Simmons to serve as the first black lesbian mayor in America. The city’s more famous namesake in England made history last year when its councillors chose a woman who had transitioned sex as mayor. Gay political activists in the US praised Ms Simmons’ selection by her fellow city councillors. Her predecessor, Ken Reeves, was also gay and black.
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which campaigns to increase the number of LGBT elected officials, said: "We are enormously proud of Mayor Simmons. Like Mayor Ken Reeves before her, she is among our community’s trailblazers. Today is a day to celebrate another broken glass ceiling." Ms Simmons has served on the city council since 2001. Cambridge, population 101,000, is the home of two of the best educational institutions in America, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is on the outskirts of Boston. Massachusetts is the only US state with legal gay marriage. "It feels really great," Ms Simmons told the Cambridge Chronicle. "When I first came to the School Committee, one of the things I always said was that I wanted to be mayor."
24th January 2008
Former US Vice President backs gay marriage
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Al Gore has spoken in favour of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The former Vice President of the United States, who was narrowly and controversially defeated by George W Bush in the 2000 Presidential election, came out in favour of equal rights in a video clip posted on current TV, a cable and online station he co-founded. "I think it’s wrong for the government to discriminate against people because of a person’s sexual orientation," he said.
Mr Gore, who was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work highlighting climate change, added that he could not understand why some people consider same-sex marriage to be a threat to the institution. "Shouldn’t we be promoting the kind of faithfulness and loyalty to one partner regardless of sexual orientation? Because if we don’t do that, then to that extent, you are promoting promiscuity and promoting all the problems that can result from promiscuity. And the loyalty and love that people feel for one another when they fall in love ought to be celebrated and encouraged and shouldn’t be prevented by any form of discrimination in the law."
None of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008 support full gay marriage. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards all back civil unions. Same-sex marriage is legal in only one US state, Massachusetts. Rhode Island and New Mexico are the only US states that have not explicitly either banned or allowed same-sex unions. At the start of this year New Hampshire became the fourth US state to legalise civil unions. In all nine states have gay and lesbian spousal rights in some form: Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. The state of Oregon was due to offer domestic partnerships from January 1st but a judge delayed the introduction of the law from taking effect until at least February pending legal challenges.
February 1, 2008
Domestic Partnerships Allowed in Oregon
by Julia Silverman
Portland, Ore. (AP) — A state law allowing gay couples to register as domestic partners belatedly took effect Friday after a federal judge ruled the state’s process of disqualifying petition signatures was consistent enough to be valid. The state quickly announced that the domestic partnership applications were available online, and jubilant gay-rights activists predicted hundreds of couples would line up on Monday morning at county offices to register.
"We’re a family. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time," said a beaming Cathy Kravitz of Portland. She said she and her partner of 21 years will be among those registering on Monday.
The law passed by the 2007 Legislature was to take effect when the new year started, but U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman suspended it to hear testimony about a petition drive that sought to put the law before voters. The petitions fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed to refer the law to the November 2008 ballot. The petitioners claim that county clerks rejected signatures improperly. The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group that advocates for Christian legal issues, said it would appeal Mosman’s ruling. Fund lawyer Austin Nimocks had argued that a signature on a petition should have the same weight as a signature on a ballot, and that elections officials should have made more of an effort to contact voters whose signatures were disqualified.
But Mosman said signatures on a petition amounted to, "a call for an election, not a substitution for an election." Testimony at the hearing turned on whether Oregon counties had a "common standard" to evaluate whether a voter’s signature on a petition was valid. Mosman said the state had supplied enough evidence — if just barely — that a common standard existed in all 36 counties. Petitioners plan to start another drive to put the domestic partnership law to a referendum.
"We want to vote — we think that our signatures mean something and it was an arbitrary move by the secretary of state’s office," said Carolyn Wendell, who was a chief petitioner in the lawsuit. Gay rights groups said they were prepared to continue fighting, both in court and on the ballot. "The (Alliance Defense Fund) is an out-of-state group that could care less about the individual rights of folks here in Oregon," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "They have certainly demonstrated that through the harm they have caused to same sex couples across this state because of the delay they’ve faced for the past month."
Gay couples who register as domestic partners will be able to file joint state tax returns, inherit each other’s property and make medical choices on each other’s behalf, along with a host of other state benefits given to married Oregonians. In 2004, about 3,000 same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses in Multnomah County, the largest county in Oregon. But Oregon voters later approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the state Supreme Court nullified the marriage licenses. Oregon becomes the ninth state to approve spousal rights in some form for gay couples, joining Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay couples to marry.
February 2, 2008
State Court Recognizes Gay Marriages From Elsewhere
by Robert D. McFadden
A New York appellate court ruled Friday that valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples must be legally recognized in New York, just as the law recognizes those of heterosexual couples solemnized elsewhere. Lawyers for both sides said the ruling applied to all public and private employers in the state. Even though gay couples may not legally marry in New York, the appellate court in Rochester held that a gay couple’s 2004 marriage in Canada must be respected under the state’s longstanding “marriage recognition rule,” and that an employer’s denial of health benefits had discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in rejecting a 2006 lower court decision. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”
For more than a century, the court noted, New York State has recognized valid out-of-state marriages. Moreover, it said that the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest judicial body, has said the Legislature may enact laws recognizing same-sex marriages. “In our view, the Court of Appeals thereby indicated that the recognition of plaintiff’s marriage is not against the public policy of New York,” the court held. As a practical matter, the marriages of thousands of gay couples entered into outside the state have been recognized in recent years by many state and local agencies and by private employers for purposes of allowing health and life insurance coverage, child care and other benefits. But others have resisted doing so voluntarily, pending the outcome of numerous cases in the courts.
Friday’s ruling, legal experts said, was the first by an appellate division court, and would make the recognition of valid out-of-state gay marriages mandatory across New York. It was not clear whether Monroe County and Monroe Community College in Rochester, the employer in the case, would appeal. Daniel DeLaus Jr., the county attorney for Rochester, said his office was reviewing the decision and would decide whether to seek an appeal. Jeffrey Wicks, a lawyer who represents the plaintiff, Patricia Martinez, said that New York had recognized common-law marriages, even marriages of closely related people that might not be allowed in the state. “There’s a long tradition in New York of recognizing marriages that couldn’t be performed in New York,” he said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented Ms. Martinez, a word-processing supervisor at the college, hailed the ruling. The union called it “the first known decision in the country to hold that a valid same-sex marriage must be recognized.”
“This is a victory for families, it’s a victory for fairness and it’s a victory for human rights,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the N.Y.C.L.U. “Congratulations to all same-sex couples validly married outside of New York State: You are now husband and husband, wife and wife. Now we need to work toward a New York where you don’t have to cross state or country lines to get married.”
The New York City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, the first openly gay leader of the Council, also applauded the ruling. “If this is saying companies have to do it, it’s a tremendous step forward in recognizing the diversity of families in New York City.” New York City already extends marriage benefits to workers in domestic partnerships, and under a law passed in 2002, it provides all city benefits and services to same-sex couples whose unions are recognized by other jurisdictions. But the city has no power to impose such rules on private companies. In 2004, the Council adopted legislation sponsored by Ms. Quinn that would have required large companies doing business with the city to provide equal job benefits to domestic partners. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg vetoed the bill, and while the Council overrode the veto, the mayor said it violated state and federal laws and would prove costly to taxpayers. He sued successfully to block it in a case decided in 2006 by the Court of Appeals.
Mayor Bloomberg’s office declined to comment on Friday’s ruling, saying it had not seen the decision. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo also declined to comment, noting that his office may be involved in an appeal as the traditional defender of state agencies. Monroe Community College is a branch of the State University of New York. In the past, Mr. Cuomo has said that state law requires that marriages performed in other states, and in Canada, be recognized in New York. In the case before the appellate division in Rochester, Ms. Martinez and her partner, Lisa Ann Golden, formalized their longstanding relationship in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001, and were married in Ontario on July 5, 2004.
A few days later, Ms. Martinez applied to Monroe Community College for health care benefits for her spouse. In November 2004, the college’s director of human resources, Sherry Ralston, denied the application, contending that the state did not recognize the marriage as a matter of law and public policy. Ms. Martinez sued in 2006, arguing that her constitutional and civil rights had been violated. A State Supreme Court justice, Harold Galloway, dismissed the lawsuit in August 2006, saying the state did not recognize same-sex marriages. The state, he wrote “currently defines marriage as limited to the union of one man and one woman.” But the appellate court disagreed, citing the century-old “marriage recognition rule” applying to heterosexual couples and noting that the Court of Appeals had implied that the Legislature could adopt a law legalizing same-sex marriage.
In early 2006, the court said, Monroe Community College had begun extending health-care benefits to Ms. Golden under a new contract provision. However, the judges held, the plaintiff was entitled to unspecified monetary damages for the period during which the benefits were wrongly denied.
Danny Hakim and Ray Rivera contributed reporting.
February 7, 2008
Cool reception for Asia’s gay workers
by von Raphael Minder
Homosexual employees face discrimination across most of Asia, but global investment banks are at the forefront of change. The international dimension of investment banking is forcing employers to confront the issue of homosexual discrimination. Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, recently held an unusual recruitment event at Hong Kong university. Lehman’s invitation was specifically aimed at gay and lesbian students who aspire to be bankers. Encouraged by the success of the presentation and buffet dinner for 50 students, Lehman is planning to extend its initiatives targeting the gay community this year. It will include the bank’s first pro-gay activities in Singapore, the city-state that has become one of Asia’s leading financial centres but where sex between men is illegal. Lehman Brothers is not the only bank seeking to recruit from Asia’s gay community. Such is the enthusiasm among investment banks that some have banded together to give their Asian events a higher profile, taking it in turn to organise lectures, dinners and other events around a gay or lesbian theme. In November, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Lehman, Merrill Lynch and UBS co-sponsored a cinema evening in Hong Kong which featured The Bubble, a 2006 film about the gay relationship between a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier.
Investment banks’ efforts to recruit more gays and lesbians is partly an attempt to attract the most talented employees. At a time when Asia has become the world’s biggest region for deals such as initial public offering, investment banks are struggling to fill the new positions on offer. And the intense hiring competition makes it crucial to ensure talented gay people are not deterred from applying because of a combination of Asian intolerance and western macho behaviour on trading floors. Cheryl de Souza, Lehman’s Asia director of diversity and inclusion, says: "Walking across some of the floors in Hong Kong, you will find that we now have people who feel comfortable about having a picture of their [same-sex] partner on their desk and that’s huge in terms of progress." Furthermore, banks are increasingly committed to corporate social responsibility and best practice, which also helps explain why some US executives argue that they are ahead of their peers in pushing for sexual diversity. Christopher Jackson, a senior vice-president for Lehman in Tokyo, says: "The way we’re tackling this in Asia certainly emanates to some extent from the fact that we’re a US firm based in New York."
In most of Asia, gay people still face discrimination
What Lehman and some other investment banks are trying to achieve in Singapore and other parts in Asia runs counter to the region’s cultural and legal environment. Homosexual people are broadly accepted in some countries, notably Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong, where gay sex was only decriminalised in 1991. But in most of Asia, gay people still face discrimination and censure – both in and out of the workplace – amid a blend of religious intolerance, family conservatism and legal bans, often inherited directly from British colonial rule. For instance gay sex is a criminal offence across the Indian subcontinent.
In Malaysia, a Muslim country where sodomy is a crime, police in November broke up a gay sex party in a fitness club on Penang and arrested 37 men aged between 20 and 45. The evidence gathered against them included used condoms found on the floor as well as six boxes of new condoms – which in many countries would probably be construed as a sign of responsible sexual behaviour. Richard Welford, a director of CSR Asia, a consultancy focused on corporate social responsibility, says: "In the vast majority of cases in Asia, gays and lesbians have to stay hidden. Sometimes they will even make up boyfriends or girlfriends . . . But it does seem that in some sectors such as investment banking, businesses are taking the lead [in improving the situation for gay people]. You could say that they are ahead of Asian society there."
Investment banks are in a better position to push for change
This has not been the case in Asian retail banking. Unlike retail banks that have countrywide branch networks, investment banks are also in a better position to push for change because they generally operate only in a country’s biggest city, where the population is usually most diverse and conservative attitudes are less entrenched than in second-tier cities and more remote Asian manufacturing centres. The international dimension of investment banking is also forcing employers to confront the issue of homosexual discrimination more regularly than their counterparts in retail banking and other more local institutions. A recurring problem is the difficulty of getting investment bankers to relocate to countries that do not offer dependent visas for same-sex partners. Still, the jurisprudence governing homosexuality is not necessarily the best guide as to where gay people will find it easiest to work in the Asia-Pacific region, according to some executives who gathered at a recent evening party of Fruits in Suits, an association that holds monthly events in Hong Kong.
Some even contrast life in Sydney, where the Mardi Gras celebration is one of the world’s biggest annual gay events, with the macho working environment within parts of the Australian financial services industry, which one banker says is "a lot behind the curve". India offers another intriguing situation, according to Stephen Golden, a vice-president at Goldman Sachs, who helps co-ordinate the bank’s global leadership and diversity programme. He says: "India is one of those places where the laws relating to homosexuality haven’t changed but society has. We have had employees who are openly gay and have been asked to transfer to India and have gone there without any issues. They understand the cultural environment and have had very good experiences."
"The least diverse office we have in Asia"
On the flip side stands South Korea, where there is no legislation banning gay sex but where gay people say they cannot be open about their sexuality for fear of being treated as social pariahs. Kay McArdle, who heads Goldman’s diversity programme in Asia excluding Japan, describes Seoul as "the least diverse office we have in Asia". Still, she finds reason for optimism in the current staffing problems that Korean firms are confronting. Recognition that there is a dearth of women in the workplace should eventually translate into broader improvements for gay people and others who struggle to gain acceptance in the Korean workplace, she argues. "The Korean government has recently been doing a huge push on getting women back into the workforce as many employers face acute staff shortages." Ms McArdle says. "They are getting up the curve, slowly but surely. And that is good news for diversity in general
25th February 2008
Story of lesbian cop’s pension struggle wins Oscar
Director Cynthia Wade and producer Vanessa Roth were among the winners at the 80th Annual Academy Awards yesterday, taking home a statue for Best Documentary Short Subject for the short film Freeheld. This was the first Oscar nomination for Wade and Roth. Freeheld documents the struggle of New Jersey Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester in her effort to transfer her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. With less than six months to live as cancer spreads to her brain, Laurel battles the Ocean County Freeholders, her elected officials, to give to Stacie what heterosexual married couples receive automatically. Hester served her community as a police officer for 25 years.
A dying wish of Hester was that the documentary film made of her last days as she battled against cancer – and the ‘freeholders’ of Ocean County in New Jersey – would be able to compete for an Oscar. Not only has that wish been fulfilled, but the film scored the win in a category full of outstanding films. Alternating from packed public demonstrations to quiet, tender moments of Hester and Andree at home, the 38-minute film tells both the public story of their fight and the intimate story of Laurel and Stacie facing the reality of losing each other. At the time New Jersey law allowed, but did not require, local authorities to extend "domestic partner benefits" to lesbian and gay couples. But nine months after the death of Lt Hester the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be granted the same rights as married heterosexual couples.
"I hope this film will inspire someone," Lt Hester explained in December 2005, six weeks before she passed away. "I hope it gives them courage if they’re dealing with discrimination, as I have… I hope if they have a terminal disease they somehow get hope from listening to my story."
"We are thrilled that this powerful film, one that has the potential to change hearts and minds concerning fairness for gay couples, has been honoured tonight with a well-deserved Academy Award," said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano. "We congratulate Cynthia Wade on her achievement and say ‘bravo’ to the Academy for their selection."
In an interview with GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Media Damon Romine, Cynthia Wade, a straight ally, spoke to how the film documents a non-traditional community of support for Laurel. "[I]n the film, the most, sort of staunchest allies that really stood by Laurel’s side were these straight, kind of dominating, macho cops that normally would not be considered gay allies," said Wade. "But because they saw one of their favourite police partners face discrimination, they realised it was wrong and said, ‘No, we’re going to stand up as a community and say this is wrong. It’s about equality.’ So one of the greatest things about this film is that we’ve really been able to bring in hybrid audiences from across the country so that everybody can talk about equal rights because it’s everybody’s responsibility."
Freeheld has won numerous previous awards, including a Short Filmmaking Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
29th February 2008
Tutu to accept award from LGBT rights group
by Tony Grew
The former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu is to be honoured by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The Anglican leader has been outspoken in his rejection of homophobia, often clashing with his more conservative African colleagues. He will be appearing at IGLHRC’s A Celebration of Courage event in San Francisco on April 8th to accept the OUTSPOKEN Award "in honour of the unprecedented impact of his leadership as a human rights advocate."
In November 2007 Archbishop Tutu told the BBC that if he believed that God was homophobic, he wouldn’t be a Christian. The Nobel Peace Prize winner said he was ashamed of his church because of its treatment of gays. He said that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican communion, has not demonstrated the attributes of a "welcoming God" to homosexuals.
"Our world is facing problems, poverty, HIV and AIDS, a devastating pandemic, and conflict," Tutu said. "God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality." He said that the Church acted in an "extraordinarily homophobic" way during the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
Asked if he still felt ashamed, he replied: "If we are going to not welcome or invite people because of sexual orientation, yes. "If God as they say is homophobic I wouldn’t worship that God. It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual. You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred. It’s like saying you choose to be black in a race infected society." In December he apologised to gay people all around the world for the way they have been treated by the Church
6th March 2008
Gay equality group gets million YouTube hits
Videos produced by the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organisation, have been viewed more than one million times on the popular online video site YouTube. HRC has created nearly 70 videos on a wide variety of subjects relevant to the fight for GLBT equality. The first clip was posted in September 2006. "Each of these one million views represents one mind changed or one person activated to make a difference," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "As online video continues to gain popularity, HRC is proud to be a leader in using the medium to advance our message of equality."
HRC’s channel at www.YouTube.com/HRCmedia currently hosts 68 videos on topics ranging from employment discrimination, the failed military "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, and National Coming Out Day to the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The most popular video, accounting for more than 450,000 views, is Take Action Against Hate Crimes, which was honoured with a 2007 Progressive Source Award for Best Call to Action video. "This election year holds enormous opportunities to make gains for GLBT Americans and we’ll continue to use these new media tools to activate and educate," said Solmonese.
7th March 2008
Lesbian and gay hotel brand launched
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
A new concept in travel for lesbian, gay and bisexual people has been launched at the International Tourism Fair in Berlin. Attitude Hotels claims to be a unique selection of hotels, Inns and B&Bs "created, designed and developed to satisfy, in particular, gay and lesbian travellers." Community Marketing, a company that specialises in gay and lesbian marketing, estimates the value of American market alone was $65 billion (£32.4bn) in 2007.
Pedro Castro, the founder, of Attitude Hotels, said: "At present we know that lesbian, gay and straight- friendly hotels are in the hands of independent owners and small hotel chains. This area of the market is suffering from a lack of recognition, promotion and certification at international level. The fragmentation of the market means that its main players do not have the necessary means to grow commercially. From now on, the Attitude Hotels brand provides these owners with the technological, marketing and commercial opportunity to promote their hotels and their specific approach."
Attitude Hotels is launching with more than twenty-five hotels in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the USA. By next year, they hope to offer a selection of more than 100 hotels worldwide. John Tanzella, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, said: "I am aware of strong demand from gays and lesbians for quality hotels which are closer to their lifestyles. As it stands today, gay and lesbian customers have difficulty finding the hotel product that suits them. I think that Attitude Hotels provides the answer to this problem."
March 16, 2008
When Girls Will Be Boys
by Alissa Quart
It was late on a rainy fall day, and a college freshman named Rey was showing me the new tattoo on his arm. It commemorated his 500-mile hike through Europe the previous summer, which happened also to be, he said, the last time he was happy. We sat together for a while in his room talking, his tattoo of a piece with his spiky brown hair, oversize tribal earrings and very baggy jeans. He showed me a photo of himself and his girlfriend kissing, pointed out his small drum kit, a bass guitar that lay next to his rumpled clothes and towels and empty bottles of green tea, one full of dried flowers, and the ink self-portraits and drawings of nudes that he had tacked to the walls. Thick jasmine incense competed with his cigarette smoke. He changed the music on his laptop with the melancholy, slightly startled air of a college boy on his own for the first time.
Rey’s story, though, had some unusual dimensions. The elite college he began attending last year in New York City, with its academically competitive, fresh-faced students, happened to be a women’s school, Barnard. That’s because when Rey first entered the freshman class, he was a woman. Rey, who asked that neither his last name nor his given name be used to protect his and his family’s privacy, grew up in Chappaqua, the affluent Westchester suburb that is home to the Clintons, and had a relatively ordinary, middle-class Jewish childhood. Rey, as he now calls himself, loved his younger brother, his parents were together and he was a good student, excelling in English and history. But he always had the distinct feeling that he wasn’t the sex he was supposed to be. As a kid, he was often mistaken for a boy, which was “mostly cool,” Rey said. “When I was 5, I told my parents not to correct people when strangers thought I was a boy. I was never a girl, really — I questioned my own gender, and other people also questioned my gender for me.” When Rey entered puberty, he felt the loss of the “tomboy” sobriquet acutely. “My body changed in freshman year of high school, and it made me depressed,” Rey said. That year, he started to wonder whether he was really meant to become a woman. His friends in high school were almost all skater boys and musicians, and he related to them as if he were one of them. He began to define himself as “omnisexual,” although he was mostly attracted to women.
The idea that he might actually want to transition from female to male began to take shape for Rey when he was 14 or 15; he can’t quite remember when exactly. “A transmale speaker guy” gave a talk at a meeting of his high school’s Gay Straight Alliance, and Rey was inspired. Then he took a typical step for someone going to high school in the first years of this century. He went home and typed “transgender” into Google. At the end of his freshman year in high school, he met Melissa, a student at Smith College who was back in Westchester for summer break and later became his girlfriend. During one of their days together, Melissa, who was immersed in campus gender activism, mentioned the concept of being a “transman” and spoke of her transmale friends. Rey confided his questions about his gender identity to her, and she encouraged him to explore them further. For most of high school, Rey spent hours online reading about transgendered people and their lives. “The Internet is the best thing for trans people,” he said. “Living in the suburbs, online groups were an access point.” He also started reading memoirs of transgendered people. He asked Melissa to explain the gender theory she was learning in college. In his senior year, he took on the name Rey. At 17, he finally felt ready to come out as trans to his family, who according to Rey struggled to understand his new identity. Around that time, he also visited a clinic in Manhattan, hoping to start hormone therapy. He was told that unless he wanted his parents involved in the process, he’d have to wait until he was 18. In the meantime, Rey began to apply to colleges. He wanted to go to “a hippie school,” as he put it, yet he felt pressure to choose a school like Barnard that hewed to an Ivy League profile. Though he decided on Barnard, he still planned to start on testosterone as soon as he turned 18. When I asked him why he wanted to start hormone therapy so soon, he replied simply, “You live your life and you feel like a boy.” Of course, living life like a boy is not what an elite women’s college has historically been about.
At 18, Rey is part of a growing population of transgender students at the nation’s colleges and universities. While still a rarity, young women who become men in college, also known as transmen or transmales, have grown in number over the last 10 years. According to Brett-Genny Janiczek Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has studied trans students on college campuses, adults who wished to transition historically did so in middle age. Today a larger percentage of transitions occur in adolescence or young adulthood. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that between a quarter of a percent and 1 percent of the U.S. population is transgender — up to three million Americans — though other estimates are lower and precise figures are difficult to come by. Still, the growing number of young people who transition when they are teenagers or very young adults has placed a new pressure on colleges, especially women’s colleges, to accommodate them. The number of young people who openly identify as transgendered has grown for a few reasons. Some parents of young children who are “gender nonconforming” — usually children who identify psychologically with the opposite sex but also children who have hermaphroditic traits, like indeterminate sex organs — now allow their kids to choose whether they are referred to as “he” or “she” and whether to wear boys’ or girls’ clothing. And some of these parents, under a doctor’s supervision, have even begun to administer hormone blockers to prevent the arrival of secondary sex characteristics until a “gender variant” child is old enough to make permanent choices. The Internet also offers greater access to information about transmale and gender-variant identities. In addition, 147 colleges and universities nationwide now include “gender identity and expression” in their nondiscrimination policies, and students will often use gender-neutral pronouns like “ze” and “hir” — especially if they post on campus message boards. At Wesleyan last year, students initiated a survey of bathrooms, checking to see if they were transgender-friendly — open to all sexes. Many colleges now have Transgender Days of Remembrance in memory of victims of gender-identity-related hate crimes. Students at the University of Vermont hold a yearly “Translating Identity Conference” for trans college students that draws hundreds of people from around the country. The increasing number of trans college students has even given rise to a surprisingly deft reality television show, “Transgeneration,” on the Sundance Channel, which featured a transmale student at Smith College.
The conventional thinking is that trans people feel they are “born in the wrong body.” But today many students who identify as trans are seeking not simply to change their sex but to create an identity outside or between established genders — they may refuse to use any gender pronouns whatsoever or take a gender-neutral name but never modify their bodies chemically or surgically. These students are also considered part of the trans community, though they are known as either gender nonconforming or genderqueer rather than transmen or transmale. At many of America’s first-tier women’s colleges, the growth of the trans community has led to campus workshops on transgender identity. According to students at Smith, a good number of restrooms have been made over as “gender neutral.” And some professors make sure to ask students to fill out slips indicating their preferred names and pronouns. Students at several women’s colleges have also created trans groups to reflect their experiences and political views. According to one transmale student I talked to at Wellesley, there are at least 15 gender-nonconforming students at the college, ranging from full-on trans to genderqueer, who have formed their own group. Other women’s colleges, like Smith, have in the last few years had on-campus gender-nonconforming groups with up to 30 members, more than 1 percent of that school’s population. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes a struggle to be trans or gender-nonconforming on campus. Many trans students feel themselves to be excluded or isolated at women’s schools and at coed colleges. Some talk of being razzed or insulted by fellow students. And even within a college’s gender-nonconforming population, students are often divided among those who define themselves as men but don’t transition medically, those who do and those who prefer not to define themselves as either male or female.
These difficulties are a natural part of being a minority that is still fighting for acceptance. But trans students’ problems can also be institutional. The presence of trans students at women’s colleges can’t help raising the question of whether — or to what degree — these colleges can serve students who no longer see themselves as women. From his first week at Barnard, Rey told me, he felt he was struggling. The women on campus seemed to Rey to be socially conservative and archly feminine, and he felt he had to seek solace elsewhere. At the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in downtown Manhattan — the medical facility for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people that he visited while he was still in high school — he began to get biweekly testosterone “T” shots (he turned 18 in September). Rey had psychological counseling elsewhere first; typically a letter of referral from a mental-health professional is required before anyone between 18 and 24 can receive hormone therapy. Rey also began to bind his breasts. But binding hurt, he said; it made it hard for him to breathe. He especially hated “having to alter your body every morning so you can go through the world and people will accept you.” But as a transmale student in a sea of women at Barnard, he felt alone. He longed to be with his girlfriend, Melissa, and with transmale friends, some of whom, like Rey, were attending women’s colleges. Even as he sought to adopt a more conventionally male appearance, he wanted to maintain his ties with his former self. “I am all for not rubbing out my past as female,” he told me.
But it was not to be that simple. As a transmale college student, he was something of a pioneer. And he began to hit some walls.
In the first week of September, he found out that his roommates had complained to the college’s freshman housing director about being asked to share their rooms with a man. They wanted Rey to find somewhere else to live. According to Dorothy Denburg, the dean who spoke to Rey about the situation, these young women were disturbed when Rey told them on the first day “that he was a transboy and wanted to be referred to by male pronouns.” Rey’s roommates had, after all, chosen to attend a women’s college in order to live and be educated in the company of other women. Barnard doesn’t have singles for freshmen. As Rey saw it, he was simply shut out by his two roommates — and by the rest of the school. A week after learning of his roommates’ disapproval, Rey, together with the dean and his parents, decided that Rey should transfer to Columbia’s School of General Studies. Rey felt lost. He slept on people’s couches and stayed with one friend, a Columbia student and fellow trans activist, for a week. The story of his rooming travails ultimately wound up on the gossip pages of The New York Post. The Post squib cast Rey as an infiltrator in one of the last girls-with-pearls bastions.
“They were very typical feminine girls,” explained Rey. “I didn’t fit in. It’s why I didn’t hang out with straight girls for most of high school — I hung out with queer women. Around the Barnard women, I felt extremely other.” Rey described the days that followed as “the worst semester ever.” As his new hormone regime began to take effect, he started to go through male puberty, which meant increased bone mass and a deepening voice and facial hair. He struggled to lead the normal life of an arty college student: eating vegan, going to clubs, keeping his grades up. Only recently, Rey says, has his life brightened. Indeed the transformation from the person he was to who he has become is startling. The second time we met, on a street corner near Columbia in Upper Manhattan, was a cold but sunny day in January, and Rey was aglow, smiling and laughing. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Melissa, now a graceful college senior, he greeted me with a hug. The reason for this cheer, he said, was that he finally felt on the way to becoming who he really is. The testosterone shots he had received every other week since October had lowered his voice a few octaves. He was in the process of legally changing his name to a male name, although he couldn’t decide whether to go casual (Rey) or Old Testament (Asher). And in December Rey underwent what he called “chest reconstruction surgery,” also known as “top surgery,” which he paid for out of pocket.
Melissa helped Rey through it, feeding him antibiotics and massaging his postsurgery chest with arnica cream. He joined a campus trans organization, GendeRevolution. In a few short months, he had become a full-blown activist. He quit smoking. To cap it off, he was bar-mitzvahed in Israel in January. He’d had his bat mitzvah at 13, but as Rey put it, he didn’t feel “connected to the experience.” He was bar-mitzvahed without his parents in attendance, but he took the rite of passage to heart. After all, at 13 he’d become a woman. Now, at 18, he was a man. Despite the seriousness of the issues Rey has dealt with, all in such a short time, he often seemed like a giddy teenager, probably because he still was one. Clad in his usual uniform of baggy pants and a B-Boy cap covered with images of euros, he gossiped about his friends, music, sex and food, from time to time throwing his arm around Melissa, who is pixielike, slim and Rey’s height — a little over five feet. She was wearing skinny jeans and ballet flats. She was so supportive of Rey’s transformation that she was taken aback when I asked if his period of postoperative recovery had been hard for her.
“He’s so much happier now,” she said. Even though Melissa always defined herself as a lesbian, she said her partner’s transition made sense to her. Part of the couple’s sangfroid is generational — she and Rey see themselves as genderqueer rather than gay. For them, sexual orientation is fluid. Like some of their peers, Melissa and Rey want to be — and sometimes imagine they already are — part of the first generation to transcend gender. On the face of it, it’s not surprising that students like Rey would choose to attend a women’s college. Same-sex colleges have always been test beds for transformations among American women. Set up as places where women could flourish without men, colleges like Barnard, Wellesley, Smith and Mount Holyoke have always had dual personalities, serving both as finishing schools and as incubators of American feminism. Smith College’s alumnae include not only Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan but also Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Catharine MacKinnon.
The schools that decided to remain single-sex in the 1970s, when many colleges around the country went coed, represented a significant and even controversial challenge to liberal ideas about gender equality. And in refashioning their identities for the time, many became loci for the interrogation of gender roles. It was, after all, at all-female schools that many young women first began to question the very notion of femininity. And this questioning found echoes in the curriculum. Scholars like Esther Newton, Gayle Rubin, Anne Fausto-Sterling and Judith Butler ushered in an era that reconceived gender as a social construct, distinct from both a person’s sex and sexuality. For Butler and others, femaleness did not automatically produce femininity and maleness did not produce masculinity: gender was fluid and variable, something to be fashioned, and could shift in character depending on the culture or the time period. As some see it, the presence of trans students at single-sex colleges is simply a logical extension of this intellectual tradition.
Indeed, as one transmale student I spoke to at Wellesley pointed out, women’s colleges are uniquely suited to transgender students. “There’s no safer place for transmen to be than a women’s college because there’s no actual physical threat to us,” he told me, adding, “I have more in common with women because of that shared experience than I do with men.” And even though Rey chose to leave Barnard for a coed school, he also says that women’s schools can — and should — act as havens for transmale students, that they are, in fact, natural beacons for trans people, because “feminists and trans activists are both interested in gender.” In a sense, transgender and genderqueer students could be said merely to be holding women’s colleges to their word: to fully support women’s exploration of gender, even if that exploration ends with students no longer being female-identified. As Judith Halberstam, a professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California and the author of “Female Masculinity,” put it, feminist theory offers students a way to think about gender as performance, to create a trans self or a genderqueer one — and give that self contours, definition — in a way that was simply unavailable 30 years ago. Indeed, Rey discovered his own trans identity reading queer theory, and even transitioning to be a man hasn’t changed his core sense of himself. “I’m still queer even though I am a man now — it’s the beauty of the term,” Rey said.
“I think gender is a spectrum — gender is more complicated than sex,” Rey continued. He sees everyone, and not just transmen, as having “their own gender,” just as they might have their own personality or temperament. Rey’s point isn’t merely academic. A good number of gender nonconforming students I spoke to at women’s colleges agreed with him. Most did not have operations but rather defined gender simply by how they experienced it, seeing themselves as existing on a “gender continuum” with their more conventionally feminine college friends. I met with one such student, Jordan Akerley, a 22-year-old senior at Wellesley. As we sat in the student-run on-campus cafe where Akerley works, Akerely explained what it is like to live out a theory of identity that doesn’t exactly conform to one gender or the other. I find pronouns cumbersome and self-limiting,” Akerley told me, which is why friends use the name Jordan, a name that Akerley says she intends to make official this year. Akerley, a co-captain of the school’s soccer team, takes no hormones and has no plans to have an operation. Akerley’s look and entire manner is quite unremarkable, even conservative: hair combed in a modified Tin Tin do, sporty, plain cotton shirt, jeans and sneakers. The only sign of an “alternative” or outsider identity — other than appearing masculine enough to be frequently mistaken on campus for a female student’s boyfriend — is Akerley’s eyebrow ring. Akerley’s affect could be that of an aspiring politician: amiable, physically attractive, clean cut, inoffensive and articulate. My identity is fluid; it may evolve and fluctuate,” Akerley explained. “My preference is not to use gender pronouns. My work is not always grammatically correct because of the lack of pronouns.”
Though women’s colleges may seem a haven for trans or gender-nonconforming students, accommodating such students requires balancing a complex set of needs and expectations — inside and outside the college. Barnard, like many women’s colleges, has an admissions policy of accepting only “legal” women. The college’s president, Judith Shapiro, who wrote an article on transsexualism in the 1980s, is clearly sympathetic to the trans population in general, but when I spoke to her she wondered aloud why a transmale or male-identified student “would want to be in a woman’s college.” She went on to explain her position this way: “Having been very involved in second-wave feminism, I am interested in gender revolutionaries, but I still think gender is a major category in our society.” In many ways, Shapiro could be said to represent the position women’s colleges now find themselves in: caught between wanting to embrace a campus minority that their own interrogation of gender roles has helped to shape and defending the value of institutions centered on the distinct experience of being female. Colleges must also navigate the attitudes and expectations of their alumnae. While some alumnae have readily accepted the presence of trans students on their campuses, others, like Suzanne Corriell and Regis Ahern, graduates of Mount Holyoke, see it as a betrayal of the foundational principles of their alma mater. Corriell and Ahern recently wrote an angry letter to The Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly, charging that admitting transmale students was, in effect, a way of “passively going coed” and that the “lifestyle choices” of these students was a bald negation of a women’s college charter. Trans students, they wrote, were simply “men seeking to take advantage of Mount Holyoke’s liberal and accepting atmosphere.”
When I called Corriell, who is 28, at the law library at the University of Richmond, where she works, she explained her feelings to me this way: “I am a strong believer in women’s education, and I think the colleges are a dying breed that need protection. I respect their agenda, which is educating women.” She paused, then said: “Educating trans students in a same-sex residential community produces difficulty — when a student no longer identifies as a woman, the privilege to attend these schools is lost. Men have lots of schools they can go to — why must transmen go to women’s schools?” Of course, many trans students identify first as women — as lesbians or feminist activists. They are attracted to women’s schools precisely because of their reputation as safe harbors for exploring these identities. As a result, many transmale students apply to women’s schools and attend them before they have fully come out as “gender nonconforming” — and this is likely to be the case for years to come.
Denburg, the Barnard dean, acknowledges that women’s colleges have always been places “where women can explore definitions and dimensions of gender.” But it is only in the last five years of her tenure as dean, she says, that she has encountered transmale students. She had, she said, no objection to Rey’s attending Barnard. The school has helped other gender-nonconforming students, among them a resident adviser in his senior year, who had to inform his female dorm mates about his gender transition over the summer. Denburg described her work with these students “as an educational journey for me as well, that has helped me to better understand the drive of someone who feels they are in the wrong body.” That said, Barnard does not have the kind of groups for trans students or awareness campaigns and gender-neutral bathrooms that some of the other women’s colleges do. And it has not been as affiliated with women’s and gender activism as some of its sister schools. Rey’s case, as Denburg put it, “caught us off guard,” mostly because administrators had never encountered a student who wanted to transition physically at such a young age. To Denburg, 18 still seems very young for such a decision. Many people would agree that going on hormones carries risks: there are few studies on the long-term effects of hormone therapies on transmen. Some transmen in their 20s and 30s have told me they worry about the hormones’ potential side effects — an increase in “bad” cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and stroke. For transmen, finding appropriate health care is complicated by the fact that student health services typically need to refer such students to outside clinics or hospitals for their care — and transmen may need additional insurance or be required to bear at least some of the medical costs themselves.
Rey always expected to go off-campus for his transition. He wound up being operated on by a private surgeon in New York City. (He received no “bottom surgery,” as it is known — few transmen do, in part because the operation is thought to be too rudimentary and in part because many transmen view it as unnecessary.) While many gender-nonconforming students don’t have “top surgery” in their freshman years, they may still struggle with their colleges’ medical services, not because they want specialized treatments but because they want health care that is sensitive to their new identities. As one gender-noncomforming student complained to me, he hated that health services insisted on treating him “like a girl.” Colleges, trans activists and advocates say, are even less prepared for advising students on how their gender-variant identities may affect their futures, including their professional lives. After all, many states don’t have protection for gender-nonconforming people in the workplace, and “gender identity” was recently dropped from the 2007 Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. “There’s no professional development for trans kids at colleges,” said Shannon Sennott, a founder of Translate, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit group that holds workshops on trans awareness at women’s colleges. “The majority disappear into big cities, working as bartenders with advanced degrees because there’s real prejudice against trans workers.” Hadley Smith, a recent Wellesley graduate and a Translate founder who describes himself as gender-nonconforming, said that unemployment or limited employment is par for the course for many transgendered people, but those limits may seem starker when high-achieving graduates from educationally competitive schools like Smith College feel, out of fear of discriminating employers, that they have to abandon, at least temporarily, their professional aspirations. Some transmale students ultimately go “stealth” after graduation, not mentioning their earlier lives as women. When I asked Rey how he hoped to handle it, he said he had no intention of hiding and was planning to be out as a transman for the rest of his life. With all the bravado of youth, he said: “I won’t get a career that I can’t be out and trans in. I’m not planning to go into business.
“I’ve learned not to try to see my future — to do the best I can in the space I am in,” he continued, and then added shyly, “I would like to, you know, make public art.” On a winter afternoon, I visited Rey at his new workplace at Columbia University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, where he was organizing a series of trans awareness events on campus. Rey was being paid by the college to create the series, and at the moment he had two chores on his list: booking a transmale photographer as a speaker and creating signage for gender-neutral bathrooms. To achieve the latter, Rey was busy sketching possible new symbols. Melissa, his girlfriend, was helping him. First they turned the familiar female stick figure into a rocket ship, making her legs into a flame. Rey created a few variations of the sign with a ballpoint pen. Then he drew a confused-looking person standing in front of both a male and a female bathroom, not knowing which one to pick. Next, he tried a single circle with the male and female symbols attached to it. Melissa laughed mockingly at the drawing of the confused man, but she nodded her head in approval at the two other symbols. The dynamic between the two is often like this — teasingly supportive. Earlier at lunch, Melissa joked about whether they were even in a relationship, “I’m not sure: Rey doesn’t do labels.” Then she told Rey, “I’ve saved 20 voice mails of your voice changing over the last four months.” He looked at her adoringly as they ate French fries in sync: Melissa was not only his girlfriend but also the historian of his identity.
“Before I was on hormones, people would get confused when I spoke over the phone — they thought I was male, and then they’d start asking questions about how old I was,” Rey said. “I didn’t want to stay a prepubescent boy.” When talk turned to the couple’s plans for the future, Melissa was more concerned about Rey leaving “wet towels on the floor,” she said, and “tracking mud in the house” than about his medical transition. His lack of housekeeping skills was particularly on her mind, since the two are planning to move in together over the summer. “We’ll stay together,” Melissa said. “That’s unless you go gay . . . again.” She laughed. She was talking about the possibility of Rey’s coming out a second time — going from being a woman who loves women to a man who loves women to a man who loves men. The remark was meant lightly, but nonetheless it got to the heart of the radical gender leaps both she and Rey were making in their everyday lives.
Then Rey grew more serious.
“Some transmen want to be seen as men — they want to be accepted as born men,” he said. “I want to be accepted as a transman — my brain is not gendered. There’s this crazy gender binary that’s built into all of life, that there are just two genders that are acceptable. I don’t want to have to fit into that.”
Alissa Quart is the author, of “Branded” and “Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child.” She is at work on a book about America’s subcultures.
20th March 2008
Washington grants new rights to same-sex couples
by Tony Grew
The US state of Washington has signed into law a Domestic Partnership Expansion bill that will provide more than 160 new rights and responsibilities to registered domestic partners. The bill passed the state Senate on March 4th by a 29 to 20 vote and the House last month by a 62 to 32 vote. Governor Chris Gregoire signed the bill into law yesterday. It comes into effect in June. It builds on a 2007 law, which created a domestic partner registry and provided specific rights and responsibilities for both same-sex and opposite sex couples. "The Domestic Partnership Expansion bill provides significant protections to LGBT families while we continue the struggle for full marriage equality in Washington state," said Joshua Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington.
The Human Rights Campaign, America’s leading LGBT rights group, said: "HRC congratulates Equal Rights Washington on this important step forward and thanks Governor Gregoire and fair-minded legislators for taking action that promises real benefits for same-sex couples in Washington and their families. This new law will provide vital rights and benefits for same-sex couples and their families. For the second time in as many years, the state of Washington has helped move same-sex couples toward full equality." In all nine US states have gay and lesbian spousal rights in some form: Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. Only Massachusetts has legalised full gay marriage.
7th April 2008
Anger at "laissez-faire attitude" as US HIV infections up 48%
A US Centre for Disease Ccontrol HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, that was quietly released recently, shows a "catastrophic" 48% increase in US HIV infections between the years 2005 and 2006. The number of infections jumped to 52,878 new reported cases in 2006 up from 35,537 reported in 2005. With the lifetime costs of one HIV-infected individual’s treatment and care estimated to be $600,000 (£302,000) , the new CDC surveillance numbers suggest a $36 billion aggregate cost for caring for these nearly 53,000 individuals.
"Catastrophe," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "There is no other word to describe these CDC numbers which underscore the wholesale failure of US HIV prevention efforts. We’d called on the CDC as far back as November to release the numbers, which they had in their possession at that time, so that Congress could consider the statistics as they finalised the budget and reapportioned and re-prioritised money for HIV/AIDS services based on need. The CDC stonewalled, stating that they were awaiting publication of a peer-reviewed journal article on the data, something that appears to not have happened after all. These new HIV numbers and the CDC’s laissez-faire attitude do not bode well for the nation’s ability to address its own growing epidemic."
Whitney Engeran, III, Director, Public Health Division, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said: "We now face $36 billion in costs associated with lifetime care and treatment of all these infected individuals. No matter how the CDC tries to spin these numbers, the fact remains that the numbers they’ve been reporting for years have been inaccurate, and have incorrectly portrayed the US epidemic as static at roughly 40,000 new infections per year. We missed a crucial opportunity to work with Congress to adjust the budget to better reflect the needs of the populations affected because of the CDC’s delay in reporting these numbers."
In a community letter dated November 26th 2007 and sent to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and others, the CDC revealed its plan to release the 2005 HIV incidence estimates "in the coming months." The letter further stated that the new numbers will be the first since the agency implemented a new system of data collection and analysis that they say will "provide more accurate and timely HIV incidence estimates." The CDC letter was likely a response to the widespread speculation among stakeholders that the latest incidence numbers would reveal an astronomical rise in the estimate of new cases, which has turned out to be true.
In the letter, the CDC stated that the goal was to release the data "as soon as possible." The CDC letter went on to say that, although the new incidence figures currently existed in manuscript form, the agency was submitting it to "an academic journal for peer review to ensure that the methods, emerging data, and conclusions are carefully reviewed for scientific accuracy and rigor before they are published.
"The manuscript is currently under review and decisions about publication are forthcoming. We hope that this is not yet another instance of the Bush Administration’s suppression of information that could be damaging to their image," added AHF’s Weinstein. "Especially in light of the fact that the spike in new infections is, at least in part, likely due to failed policies of the administration, including the promotion of ‘abstinence-only’ prevention messages and the failure to promote condom use."
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the USA’a largest HIV/AIDS organisation. AHF currently provides treatment, care and support services to more than 65,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org.
April 20, 2008
Gay bishop to attend Lambeth conference despite previous rejection
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The most senior openly gay cleric in the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson is due to enter into a partnership with his long term boyfriend, Mark Andrew, in June and intends to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference to be held in Caterbury despite previously refusing to attend. The once a decade Lambeth conference of the 800 leaders of the Anglican Communion will be held this July and the Archbishop of Canetrbury, Dr Williams is keen to ensure that he can avoid further splits before the gathering. In March, it was reported that Bishop Robinson would not appear due to restrictions that he feared wouild be placed on him.
Bishop Robinson will be in London next week in order to promote his new book In the Eye of the Storm and is due to speak to PinkNews.co.uk. Bishop Robinson caused a storm of controversy when he was elected Bishop by the American Episcopal Church in 2003. Bishop Robinson caused a storm of controversy when he was elected Bishop by the American Episcopal Church in 2003. Evangelical churches, particularly those from the developing world are threatening to split with the Church of England if their stance towards homosexuality is adopted more widely.
Rt Rev Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells said: "Once we get into the need for legislation, or tribunals, monitoring or punishments, we lose the meaning of communion." Some bishops have reportedly threatened to boycott the conference due to the way Robinson has been treated. However, he asked fellow bishops not to keep themselves from the event for his sake, saying someone has to represent the LGBT population in their communities."You must go. You must find your voice," he said.
May 11, 2008
Top This: A Gay Ceremony on ABC’s ‘Brothers & Sisters’
by William Keck
After much anticipation on the set of ABC’s "Brothers & Sisters," a wedding cake has arrived. The four-tier creation — adorned with flowers and blackberries — is locked in a freezer, out of sight from the curious cast members, who are wondering what the cake topper looks like. Spotting a prop woman with the topper in her hands, Matthew Rhys — whose character, Kevin, weds Sunday (10 p.m. ET/PT) in the show’s Season 2 finale — calls her over. "Is it a man and a woman?" he asks. Getting a closer look, Rhys smiles and says, "Oh, it’s two men. Fantastic. There were jokes made that they wouldn’t be able to find two men, so they’d have to doctor the woman by adding a moustache." This is no typical TV wedding. It’s a gay commitment ceremony — the first same-sex union on American network TV between series regulars.
"It’s all very progressive, evolved and about time," says Rhys. "It’s a milestone, and I was really quite pleased that I got to be a part of it," echoes Calista Flockhart, who plays Kevin’s big sis Kitty. The Walker family and guests have gathered in the living room to watch Kevin exchange vows with longtime beau Scotty Wandell (Luke Macfarlane). Flockhart’s character will officiate at the ceremony while her husband (Rob Lowe) ends up playing a key role — significant because he’s a Republican senator opposed to gay marriage. During a break, Lowe waltzes off set. "It’s pretty romantic in there," he notes, greeting his visiting kid brother, actor Chad Lowe, who explains, "I’m here to witness history." When Rhys and Macfarlane finally arrive on set in their crisp suits and ties, the cast and crew let out a collective awwww.
There is much affection for the characters, who met at the start of the series. It is a sentiment shared by at least one show fan. Rhys tells of a letter he received from the mother of a gay son. She "took great strength in seeing Kevin interact with his mother, and how little of a problem it is for them," he says. "It was a lovely letter." The note was a pleasant distraction from the good-natured ribbing he has been taking from his co-stars. "Luke and I were rehearsing who was to stand where, which would put one of us in the woman’s position, and a few comments were made," says Rhys. "And neither of us was going to wear a white suit while the other wore black." Dave Annable and Balthazar Getty, who play Kevin’s brothers, have been engaging in their own teasing over Tommy being best man. "Dave’s been locked in his dressing room, crying," jokes Getty. And Annable retorts: "Balthazar couldn’t handle not being best man."
Both Sally Field (matriarch Nora) and Emily VanCamp (Rebecca) have come to set nursing colds, and producer/director Ken Olin has noticed that the other actors are avoiding hugging them on camera. Conspicuously absent from the gathering is Sarah’s (Rachel Griffiths) love interest (Steven Weber), who will not return for Season 3. But her character’s two young kids are there, and Griffiths wonders if some viewers will "have a problem with that." She hopes not, but the liberal-leaning show does attempt to recognize those who oppose gay marriage by introducing Scotty’s disapproving parents, who skip the ceremony. That volatile relationship is expected to be explored in Season 3. Another possibility: children. "It would be interesting to go down the adoption route and see from a legal aspect how Kevin would campaign for that," says Rhys, whose character is an attorney. Adds Macfarlane: "Kitty makes a speech about Scotty and Kevin building a family, which hopefully is foreshadowing."
Executive producer Monica Breen assures, "They will be a family. Kevin deserves a stable relationship in the same way that Kitty, Sarah and all the others deserve it. He will be facing many questions in his life but now he has someone to share that with."
May 16, 2008
California Court Affirms Right to Gay Marriage
by Adam Liptak
The California Supreme Court, striking down two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman, ruled Thursday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The court’s 4-to-3 decision, drawing on a ruling six decades ago that struck down the state’s ban on interracial marriage, would make California only the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages. The decision, which becomes effective in 30 days unless the court grants a stay, was greeted with celebrations at San Francisco City Hall, where thousands of same-sex marriages were thrown out by the courts four years ago. It was denounced by religious and conservative groups, who pledged to support an initiative proposed for the November ballot that would amend California’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages and overturn the decision.
Same-sex marriage has been a highly contentious issue in past presidential and Congressional elections, but it was not immediately clear what role the ruling would play in this year’s elections. The Democratic and Republican candidates for president have all said that they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, but Republicans could use a surge in same-sex marriages in the country’s most populous state to invigorate their conservative voters. Given the historic, cultural, symbolic and constitutional significance of marriage, Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote for the majority, the state cannot limit its availability to opposite-sex couples.
“In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship,” he wrote, “the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.” Supporters of gay marriage said the ruling was a milestone. “This decision will give Americans the lived experience that ending exclusion from marriage helps families and harms no one,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, who noted that same-sex marriages are now legal in South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
But opponents said they expected the proposed ballot initiative, which has been submitted to state election officials with more than one million signatures, to pass in November. “The court was wrong from top to bottom on this one,” said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage. “The court brushed aside the entire history and meaning of marriage in our tradition.” There about 110,000 same-sex couples in California, according to census data, and the state has a strong domestic partnership law giving couples who register nearly all of the benefits and burdens of heterosexual marriage. But the majority of the justices said that is not enough. The court left open the possibility that the Legislature could use a term other than “marriage” to denote state-sanctioned unions so long as that term was used across the board — for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
The state’s ban on same-sex marriage was based on a law enacted by the legislature in 1977 and a statewide initiative approved by the voters in 2000, both defining marriage as limited to unions between a man and a woman. The question before the court was whether those laws violated provisions of the state Constitution protecting equality and fundamental rights. Mathew D. Staver, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, a public interest firm that defends traditional marriage, said it would ask the court to stay its decision until the election in November, meaning that Thursday’s decision could be overturned before it becomes effective. “It would only be logical” for the court to grant a stay, Mr. Staver said, given the confusion that would arise if same-sex marriages were available for only a few months.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in a statement that he respected the court’s ruling and did not support a constitutional amendment to overturn it. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Marvin R. Baxter said the majority should have deferred to the state Legislature on whether to allow same-sex marriage, particularly given the increased legal protections for same-sex couples enacted in recent years. “But a bare majority of this court,” Justice Baxter wrote, “not satisfied with the pace of democratic change, now abruptly forestalls that process and substitutes, by judicial fiat, its own social policy views for those expressed by the people themselves.”
Also dissenting, Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote that her personal sympathies were with the plaintiffs challenging the bans on same-sex marriage. But she said the courts should allow the political process to address the issue. “We should allow the significant achievements embodied in the domestic partnership statutes to continue to take root,” Justice Corrigan wrote. “If there is to be a new understanding of the meaning of marriage in California, it should develop among the people of our state and find its expression at the ballot box.”
The Supreme Court was the first state high court to strike down a law barring interracial marriage, in a 1948 decision called Perez v. Sharp. The vote in Perez, like the one in Thursday’s decision, was 4-to-3. The United States Supreme Court did not follow suit until 1967. At present, six of the seven justices on the California court, including all of the dissenters, were appointed by Republican governors. Thursday’s decision was rooted in two rationales, and both drew on the Perez decision. The first was that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right. “The right to marry,” Chief Justice George wrote, “represents the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with a person of one’s choice and, as such, is of fundamental significance both to society and to the individual.” Chief Justice George conceded that “as an historical matter in this state marriage has always been restricted to a union between a man and a woman.” But “tradition alone,” the chief justice continued, does not justify the denial of a fundamental constitutional right. Bans on interracial marriage were, he wrote, sanctioned by the state for many years.
In a second rationale from the interracial marriage case, the court struck down the laws banning same-sex marriage on equal protection grounds, also adopting a new standard of review in the process. When courts weigh whether distinctions among people or groups violate the right to equal protection, they general require only a rational basis for the distinction, a relatively easy standard to meet. But when the discrimination is based on race, sex or religion, the courts generally require a more substantial justification. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the majority ruled Thursday, also requires that sort of more rigorous justification. The court acknowledged that it was the first state high court to adopt the standard, strict scrutiny, in sexual orientation cases.
Lawyers for the state identified two interests to justify reserving the term marriage for heterosexual unions: tradition and the will of the majority. Chief Justice George said neither was sufficient. Still, Chief Justice George took pains to emphasize the limits of the majority’s ruling. It does not require ministers, priests or rabbis to perform same-sex marriages, he said. He added that the decision “does not affect the constitutional validity of the existing prohibitions against polygamy and the marriage of close relatives.” Other state high courts to consider the question of gay marriage in recent years, including those in New York, New Jersey and Washington, have been closely divided but stopped short of striking down state laws forbidding it. A decision from the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected shortly.
May 21, 2008
Handbook on transgender children released
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
For parents and professionals alike, raising a transgender child can be confusing and challenging. A new book published in the US tackles the issues "thousands of families face raising children who step outside of the pink or blue box." The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals deals with how to decide if a child is trans, family acceptance, the education system and medical and legal issues.
"Providing extensive research and interviews as well as years of experience working in the field, authors Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper explore what is currently known and understood about gender," said the book’s publisher in a press release. "They describe the process that many families go through after learning that a child is transgender or gender variant and lay out strategies for parents to move from crisis to acceptance. Brill and Pepper cover developmental stages of the transgender child from birth to college, transition decisions, appropriate disclosure, and the educational, medical, and legal issues that parents and therapists need to know."
Ms Pepper is the Coordinator of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at Yale University and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians. Ms Brill founded Gender Spectrum Education and Training and wrote The Queer Parents Primer and co-authored The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth.
May 22, 2008
European Parliament demands US reconsider HIV ban
by Tony Grew
An amendment urging the European Commission to raise the issue of people with HIV being exempted from entry into the US visa waiver programme has been passed by MEPs. It formed part of a larger resolution, which was approved by 511 votes to 29, on a range of visa issues between the US and the EU. Currently the EU is involved in visa negotiations with the US authorities to secure visa-free travel (visa waiver) for EU citizens from all 27 member states. The European Parliament resolution states that any formal agreement on repatriation of EU citizens should be acceptable only on the basis of reciprocity and obligations relating to the possible introduction of an electronic system for travel authorisations for US citizens travelling to the EU.
Amendment 3a, which passed by 309 to 218, urges the EC to: "Include in the negotiations the exclusion of Europeans with HIV from the visa waiver programme, and ensure equal treatment of all EU citizens; agrees with the Commission that there are no objective reasons for a travel ban for HIV infected persons." Last month Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford launched an online campaign to end the American policy which effectively bars HIV positive people from entering the country. Under current US immigration law, any foreign national who tests positive for HIV is "inadmissible," meaning he is barred from permanent residence and even short-term travel in the United States.
There are waivers available to this rule, but obtaining them has always been difficult. The ban originates from 1987, when fear about the spread of the disease led US officials to require anyone with HIV to declare their status and apply for a special visa. New regulations purport to speed up the waiver application process because consular officers would be empowered to make decisions on waiver applications without seeking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign off. However, by using this "streamlined" application process, waiver applicants would have to agree to give up the ability to apply for any change in status while in the US, including applying for legal permanent residence.
Deborah Jack of the National AIDS Trust said: "People in the UK should no longer be subjected to discriminatory laws that restrict their travel to the US based on HIV status. "Such a law only breeds stigma and discrimination." Since the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, the Council (heads of government) has been responsible for establishing the rules on visas, including the list of third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa or are exempt from the visa requirement. Last month the Council decided to give the Commission a formal mandate to negotiate with the US on all Community-related issues.
MEPs raised the issue that US citizens are exempt from EU visa requirements yet a comparable exemption does not apply to all EU citizens, as the US still maintains the visa requirement for nationals of Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. "The rate of visa refusal, which is based on non-transparent criteria, is greater than 10% of applications," the resolution stated. "Any form of direct or indirect discrimination between European citizens on the grounds of their nationality should be prohibited not only inside the European Union, as laid down in Article 12 of the EC Treaty, but also outside the European Union, notably when such discrimination is the consequence of a lack of coordination in international negotiations between the EU institutions and Member States."
The United States is one of 13 countries in the world, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, that bans travel for individuals who are HIV-positive. In July 2007 the European Commission quietly approved an agreement which gives the DHS unprecedented access to the personal information of anyone on a transatlantic flight, including details of their sexual orientation. The DHS insists on the right to use the information for disease control, and there are fears that gay passengers may be singled out as possible HIV risks. The plans involve upgrading information which is already sent by airlines to the DHS on the 4-million-plus Britons who visit the US every year, including payment details, home address and the passengers in-flight meal choice.
The agreement adds 19 possible new categories, including information on ethnic origin, political and philosophical opinions, credit card numbers, trade union membership, sex life and details of the passengers’ health. The information will be provided by passengers when making bookings.
May 22, 2008
Court ruling allows legal challenge to US gay military ban
by Tony Grew
A US federal court of appeal has reinstated a lawsuit by a decorated Air Force nurse who is suing after she was discharged for being a lesbian. Major Margaret Witt’s case is the first time a court has not automatically backed the US military’s argument that gays hurt morale and operations as a good enough reason for dismissal. The three judges of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Air Force now has to demonstrate reasons to keep Major Witt from serving. They did not strike down the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which is in fact a federal law passed in 1993. It bars openly gay, bisexual or lesbian people from serving in any of the US Armed Forces and prohibits the military from asking questions about a service member’s sexuality.
Major Witt, who joined up in 1987, tried to sue in 2006. A district court judge said that a 2003 Supreme Court ruling which struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy laws did not extend to the military’s treatment of gays. Yesterday the appeals court reinstated her lawsuit. "When the government attempts to intrude upon the personal and private lives of homosexuals, the government must advance an important governmental interest and the intrusion must be necessary to further that interest," Judge Ronald M Gould wrote.
Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director at Lambda Legal, said: "We extend congratulations to Major Margaret Witt and her counsel, the ACLU and James Lobsenz, on today’s Ninth Circuit ruling. We are pleased with the decision, which is a step in the right direction towards full equality for LGBT service members in the US armed forces. The Air Force now has to demonstrate a very important reason to keep Major Margaret Witt, a model officer and nurse, from serving her country. The court held that the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy must satisfy a heightened standard of review if it is to bar Major Witt from military service. Lambda Legal’s landmark case Lawrence v. Texas (2003) was cited as the rationale to subject the policy to this high level of scrutiny. We are hopeful that on remand the district court will agree that allowing Major Witt to serve her country poses no threat to unit cohesion in the armed forces and her sexuality has no bearing on her ability to perform her duties as an officer and nurse."
Lambda Legal submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Major Witt. This latest legal challenge follows numerous attempts to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law. Earlier this month the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Congress, and not the military, is responsible for the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service. Speaking to graduating cadets at West Point military academy, Admiral Mike Mullen said that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy enacted by Congress in 1993 is a law that the Armed Forces follow. "Should the law change, the military will carry that out too," he said.
Under US federal law more than 12,000 LGB men and women have been dismissed. An estimated 65,000 lesbian and gay service members serve on active duty and in the reserves of the United States military, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN), a non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organisation dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel.
During his Senate confirmation hearing last year, Admiral Mullen told lawmakers: "I really think it is for the American people to come forward, really through this body, to both debate that policy and make changes, if that’s appropriate. I’d love to have Congress make its own decisions with respect to considering repeal." The most senior US military veteran in the House of Representatives has called for an end to the ban. Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak, who served 31 years in the Navy, retiring with the rank of three-star Admiral, is one of seventeen veterans in Congress who want to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. Nearly 150 of his Congressional colleagues have lent their support to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which would repeal that law and allow lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel to serve openly. In March US Presidential candidate Barack Obama told leading gay publication The Advocate he supports a repeal of the gay ban and is hopeful it can be achieved. His rival for the Democratic nomination for President, Senator Hillary Clinton, has discussed options to remove Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which was introduced during her husband Bill Clinton’s Presidency.
"I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy," Senator Obama told The Advocate. "We’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn’t make us more safe." Polls show that 79% of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly. For the rest of the countries in the NATO alliance, the claims and counter-claims about unit cohesion and the "influence" of gays on fighting men seem like echoes from another time.
The Dutch lifted their ban on gays in 1974, Australia followed in 1992 and Canada soon after. In 2008, most of the member nations of NATO have removed their bans. As US politicians and generals argue about the fairness or the sense of a policy that has been responsible for the discharge of more than 10,000 personnel and has cost American taxpayers more than $363 million (£182.6m), here in the UK the Armed Forces are open and welcoming of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, a good practice forum where employers work with Stonewall and each other, to promote lesbian, gay and bisexual equality in the workplace.
"The UK is by far and away the most respected military in the world when it comes to the mindset of the Pentagon," Professor Aaron Belkin, an academic who is an expert on DADT, told PinkNews.co.uk earlier this year. I know in personal conversations with very respected military leaders that they see British experiences as precedent setting and that the incredible progress over here, has already changed a lot of their minds. So once that moment arrives the British experiences will need to be studied in greater depth, to get a road map. The number of people who either are indifferent to change or prefer change is large, and the willingness of people who prefer change to speak out publicly, that’s been the most visible difference. So now it’s not people saying in the hallways, yeah gays should serve, but it’s people willing to stick their neck out."
May 22, 2008
Gay man elected mayor of major US city
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Sam Adams has won the race to become Mayor of the American city of Portland, Oregon. The 44-year-old, who is a city commissioner, said he intends to concentrate on reducing the dropout rate in the city’s schools and boost the economy. Portland, with a population of more than half a million people, is one of the top 30 cities in America and the largest city in the US so far to elect an openly gay or lesbian mayor. Mr Adams won more than 58 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary, giving him an outright victory over his opponents. "I’m running not to be a gay mayor, but a great mayor," Mr Adams said in his victory speech. He will take office in January. "But I’m very aware that I’m the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. That’s a real honour."
Four years ago Oregon passed a law restricting marriage to a man and a woman.
"With the position of mayor comes life and death authority and responsibility in running a police force, emergency preparedness system and fire departments," Mr Adams told Oregonlive.com. "But gay folks still can’t be trusted to be married." Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which backed Mr Adams, said: "In Oregon, fairness has won the day." The fund works to increase the number of openly LGBT elected officials at all levels of government in America.
It has helped increase the number of out elected officials from 49 in 1991, when it was founded, to more than 400 today. Victory has endorsed nearly 60 candidates so far in 2008. In other Oregon news, Secretary of State candidate Kate Brown advanced to a November general election after easily winning her Democratic primary. Ms Brown, who is currently the Democratic leader in the Oregon Senate, would become the nation’s highest ranking openly bisexual elected official if she wins her November general election.
"These victories mean that people who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can also be seen as capable, committed leaders whose sexual orientation or gender identity is less important than what they plan to do for their communities," said Mr Wolfe. " That’s a step toward full equality that we want to replicate across America."
May 29, 2008
New York to Back Same-Sex Unions From Elsewhere
by Jeremy W. Peters
Albany – Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada. In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.” The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses. In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as “a strong step toward marriage equality.” And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state.
“Very shortly, there will be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, and probably thousands and thousands and thousands of gay people who have their marriages recognized by the state,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side and has pushed for legalization of gay unions. Massachusetts and California are the only states that have legalized gay marriage, while others, including New Jersey and Vermont, allow civil unions. Forty-one states have laws limiting marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Legal experts said Mr. Paterson’s decision would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere.
The directive is the strongest signal yet that Mr. Paterson, who developed strong ties to the gay community as a legislator, plans to push aggressively to legalize same-sex unions as governor. His predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, introduced a bill last year that would have legalized gay marriage, but even as he submitted it, doubted that it would pass. The Democratic-dominated Assembly passed the measure, but the Republican-led Senate has refused to call a vote on it. Short of an act by the Legislature, the directive ordered by Mr. Paterson is the one of the strongest statements a state can make in favor of gay unions.
“Basically we’ve done everything we can do on marriage legislatively at this point,” said Sean Patrick Maloney, a senior adviser to Mr. Paterson. “But there are tools in our tool kit on the executive side, and this is one.”
The directive cited a Feb. 1 ruling by a State Appellate Court in Rochester that Patricia Martinez, who works at Monroe Community College and who married her partner in Canada, could not be denied health benefits by the college because of New York’s longstanding policy of recognizing marriages performed elsewhere, even if they are not explicitly allowed under New York law. The appeals court said that New York must recognize marriages performed in other states that allow the practice and in countries that permit it, like Canada and Spain. Monroe County filed an appeal with the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but it was rejected on technical grounds. The county has not decided whether to file another appeal, a county spokesman said on Wednesday. The Court of Appeals has previously ruled that the state’s Constitution did not compel the recognition of same-sex marriages and that it was up to the Legislature to decide whether do so.
Groups that oppose gay marriage said the governor was essentially trying to circumvent the Legislature. “It’s a perfect example of a governor overstepping his authority and sidestepping the democratic process,” said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization opposed to same-sex marriage. “It’s an issue of public policy that should be decided by the voters.” Gay rights advocates, however, applauded Mr. Paterson, saying the broad directive would make it clear that gay couples wed in other states were entitled to all of the benefits of marriage in New York and relieve them of the burden of challenging or suing individual agencies. “He saw no reason to stand in the way of making sure these couples benefit from the rights and protections that come with marriage,” said Susan Sommer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, a group that advocates for gay rights. “It shouldn’t be the burden of each lesbian or gay couple to have to advocate before an agency every time a new issue comes up.”
In the directive, Mr. Nocenti wrote that state agencies should review all rules and regulations to determine whether they conflict with recognition of same-sex marriages and report back to him by June 30. Mr. Nocenti said that state agencies that did not provide “full faith and credit to same-sex marriages” could be subject to liability. He said that many changes could be made through internal memos or policy statements, but that regulatory changes might be needed in some cases. Mr. Nocenti directed agency heads to a list of state regulations and statutes that were likely to need overhaul, including measures affecting a spouse’s ability to collect a deceased spouse’s pension and to continue to use public housing. In addition to conferring more rights on gay couples, the changes might also require more responsibilities. For example, the order that required certain employees of the executive branch to file financial disclosure documents for their spouses would also apply to gay spouses.
It is less clear what the directive means for state policies that are not enforced by state agencies but by the courts, like those that govern child custody or protect a husband and wife from having to testify against one another about statements they made to each other while married. Coincidentally, Mr. Nocenti’s directive was dated one day before the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Gay marriage proponents said they expected that ruling, which will take effect in mid-June unless the court grants a stay, will lead some gay couples in New York to marry in California so they can take advantage of the protections under New York law.
Of course, many gay New Yorkers might find Canada to be a more convenient option, some gay rights supporters pointed out. Mr. Nocenti also said that marriages performed in Massachusetts should be recognized in New York, though Massachusetts, unlike California, does not permit gay residents from other states to be married there if their home state prohibits same-sex unions. While gay rights advocates widely praised the spirit of Mr. Paterson’s policy, some saw more than a little irony in the fact that New York has yet to allow gays to marry.
“If you’re going to treat us as equals, why don’t you just give us the marriage license?” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda. “So this is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem, which is marriage equality in New York State.”
Danny Hakim contributed reporting.